Learning from Each Other:Why and How Business Schools Need to Create a ‘Paradox Box’ for Academic-Policy Impact

Beech, Nic and Mason, Katy and Mackintosh, Robert and Bartunek, Jean (2022) Learning from Each Other:Why and How Business Schools Need to Create a ‘Paradox Box’ for Academic-Policy Impact. Academy of Management Learning and Education. ISSN 1537-260X

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As the ‘impact agenda’ continues to gain prominence internationally, a key challenge is enabling academics and policymakers to interact. Business schools in the UK, New Zealand and Australia have come under increasing government pressure to deliver impactful research and address the world’s Grand Challenges and, in so doing, transform society, economy and environment. Within academia, we have recognised an ethical position that if we could contribute to such change then some of our resource and effort should be focused in this way, to bring the benefits of our research to the world of policy and practice and to gain insights about the use and potential direction of our research. Yet academic cultures and the everyday practices of Business Schools act to keep ‘outsiders’ out: conferences, learned societies and academic journals remain inaccessible and impenetrable to those responsible for making and implementing the policies that our research might hope to inform. With a focus on academia and policymakers, we argue that there are significant cultural impediments to achieving impact and that it may not only be difficult to blend academic and policymaking cultures, it may even be counter-productive. In this expository essay, we suggest an alternative: establish a learning zone in which key cultural rules are suspended (not ‘solved’) and groups can contribute input and extract learning insights as if they were collaborating with shared understanding, when this may only partially be the case. We explore the theoretical grounds for a new kind of learning zone by examining the barriers and contradictions that currently impede academics and policymakers learning from each other. We present the ‘paradox box’ as a framework which offers a way of coping with embedded contradictions without having to eradicate them. Given that one size is unlikely to fit all, we offer a set of design principles for devising paradox boxes.

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Journal Article
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Academy of Management Learning and Education
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20 Jul 2022 14:40
Last Modified:
03 Aug 2022 08:55